Doorstop interview, Support Payments

E&OE

MINISTER RUSTON:
The Australian Government remains committed to providing support to all Australians as we work our way through this coronavirus pandemic. Clearly decisions that need to be made into the future need to be made with the economic conditions that at the time being at the forefront of our decision making and so we will be making decisions about ongoing temporary measures to support Australians who find themselves unemployed later in the year when we've got a better idea of what the economic conditions are at that time and particularly what the jobs market is doing. In the July economic fiscal update we made it very clear that the government wanted to remain agile to respond to the situation, whether it be the economic situation or a health situation and that's what we intend to continue doing. Next Friday new measures will come into place as we change the settings in our economy for people who are unemployed by extending the coronavirus supplement for another three months to the end of the year but at the same time providing an incentive for people to re-engage with the workforce by providing them with a $300 income free area which basically means that people can earn $300 before any of their payments are impacted. We are doing this because we believe it is very important that we manage the increased levels of support that we know people need because of the shallow jobs market, but at the same time recognising that we need people to re-engage with the jobs market as jobs become available. In relation to indexation, decisions in relation to indexation are made twice a year and they're made on the basis of a number of indices. All of these indices have gone backwards as a result of pandemic. The decisions around the indexation are not a matter for Government, they are actually a legislated mechanism that was put in place in 2009 by the Labor Government. But we equally recognise that all Australians have done it tough through this pandemic, not the least of which are our older Australians, and that's why we've made two $750 payments so far to our older Australians and to people on pensions and we will continue to provide support to all Australians as we go forward and part of that will be additional support for people on pensions, that will be a matter for the Budget. Thank you.

JOURNALIST:
So Minister, when will the Government make a decision about what the JobSeeker rate will be?

MINISTER RUSTON:
The decisions about any measures and support that goes past the end of this year will be made later in the year when we've got a better understanding of the economic conditions at that time. But if elevated supports continue to be needed, they will be made available.

JOURNALIST:
So will people need to wait until after the Budget?

MINISTER RUSTON:
We will not be making announcements in Budget. We want to wait and see what happens after the end of next week's changes to the mechanisms that are in place and then we will be looking to what the economic conditions are a little later in the year before we make any decisions about whether we need to put in place ongoing temporary measures.

JOURNALIST:
Does that not present a lot of uncertainty for people who are relying on these payments?

MINISTER RUSTON:
Well the certainty that we want to provide for all Australians is to make sure that we work as a whole of economy, making sure that we work with the business sector and with those people that find themselves unemployed, to make sure that we open up the economy, we continue to create the jobs so we can move people from unemployment benefits back into jobs. But as I said we clearly recognise the jobs market remains shallow and that's why under these temporary circumstances while the coronavirus pandemic is still in force we will continue to provide people with elevated levels of support.

JOURNALIST:
Is there any indication whether the JobSeeker rate is, even if it does get reduced slightly it'll be higher that what it was prior to the pandemic?

MINISTER RUSTON:
Well at the moment we are still in the middle of a pandemic, there's still much that we don't know about where the pandemic is going to end and what Australia is going to look like and what the Australian economy is going to look like post pandemic. So we remain very focused around making sure that the measures that we have in place reflect the conditions at the time and decisions about anything ongoing would be a matter for the time once the economy has settled and we know what a post pandemic Australia looks like.

JOURNALIST:
Do we know what a post pandemic Australia is going to look like? It seems like these conditions are going to last for the foreseeable future.

MINISTER RUSTON:
And that is exactly my point, is the fact that we don't know what Australia is going to look like on the other side of this pandemic, we don't know when it's going to end. So what we as a Government are saying to the Australian public, we will remain agile and we will continue to provide the support that is needed for Australia and Australians to make sure that we can manage, not just the economy, but their interests through this pandemic.

JOURNALIST:
Will there be any consideration of people can reject jobs that aren't suitable for them? Will there be a push to get jobs that they wouldn't otherwise consider suitable for them?

MINISTER RUSTON:
Well, if somebody is not suitable for a job then there is no expectation that they would take that job. However, if somebody is capable and able to take up a job, not only is it we would require them to do it, but it is the sensible thing to do. I mean clearly we know that people who report earnings, even if it's only a part time job, are more likely to come off payment much more quickly than somebody who doesn't report earnings. So I would encourage any Australian, give it a go even if it's not perhaps your dream job or not the job you ever thought you might take, give it a go because you never know where that might lead to other jobs, or you might actually even quite like the job.

JOURNALIST:
Just on the age pension. So the indexation of the aged pension won't be happening tomorrow as it normally would. Can pensioners expect some other form of support? And what would that be?

MINISTER RUSTON:
Just to be really clear, indexation is a mechanism that's built into legislation and tomorrow indexation technically occurs. However, all of the measures by which we make the determination about indexation have gone backwards as a result of the pandemic. So, therefore, the indexation that would have occurred tomorrow is actually at a zero rate. But we recognise that pensioners rely and depend very heavily on the increases that they get twice yearly and that's why provisions have been made in the Budget to make sure that we support our pensioners going forward.

JOURNALIST:
So when will they find out what those provisions will be?

MINISTER RUSTON:
The provisions will be announced on Budget night by the Treasurer.

JOURNALIST:
[Indistinct] TikTok and WeChat will be barred from US ad stores. Do you know, is this a move the Australian Government is considering at all?

MINISTER RUSTON:
Well I mean obviously decisions in relation to this are a matter for the Minister for Home Affairs and the Minister for Foreign Affairs. So I'd prefer to leave those, any commentary around these very sensitive issues to them.

JOURNALIST:
To your knowledge is there any concerns within the government about these apps operating at all in Australia?

MINISTER RUSTON:
That’s not something that I have any line of sight over. Thanks so much.